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Thrive Global

What Strong Leaders Do to Fill Generational Gaps At Work

There exist remarkable differences between baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) and millennials (born between 1982 and 2004). These differences are very easy to identify when they work together.

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For example, it is difficult for baby boomers to see someone in their 20s, coming and disrupting how things have always been. On the other hand, millennials get frustrated when they are readily waiting to disrupt the old models with their new ideas, and are told to know their place in the real world.

Baby boomers are exhausted by the new technology, millennials want to embrace it.This is because millennials get frustrated when they see that the technology they grew up with has still not supplanted the traditional ways of doing things. On the other hand, it’s hard for baby boomers to make millennials understand the hidden side of why these models work.

This generational difference is the cause of a constant banter that is easy to spot at the workplace. But without a doubt, at the end of the day, they have to co-exist as two sides of the same coin that are united with equal natured intentions of achieving the same goals.

This blend of baby boomers and millennials adds diversity at the workplace. But it also adds differences in values, culture, lifestyle and technological know-how. This creates a big challenge for leaders to manage them in a team. So let us see what leaders can do to tackle such issues.

Make Them Understand The Unspoken Rules

There is an anecdote where one of my employees, let’s call him Mike, did something that helped me understand things. Now Mike was a good and hardworking employee in his mid-20s. One day, the manager told Mike to do a task. Mike was busy in his work so the manager thought of not to insist him urgently, but only enough that he does his job.

Mike’s shift ended at 6 and he left without doing the job. I was a senior manager so his boss complained me of his behavior. He told me that he made it clear to Mike to do the job.

I didn’t ask Mike for his opinion as I knew what the problem was. It was hard for some employees to learn the unspoken rules of communication unless they were taught in very clear terms. I knew that time will eventually teach them these things and therefore it is something that one should not be annoyed at, but should try to fix.

Managers should understand that there are things that won’t come naturally to millennials or baby boomers. So, they should try to come up with indirect ways, in situations, where a direct approach could worsen the existing circumstances. With time team members will understand things by themselves.

So, I told his boss to remind him of the job as soon as he comes to work the next day. This way it would be much easier for him to understand the importance of values that his baby-boomer counterparts acknowledged.

Understanding Their Individual Motives

Understanding the motives is important with respect to the power struggle that lies at the heart of the conflict. Some baby boomers think that millennials show a preference for shallowness over depth, simplism over hard work and trend following over verification. On the other hand, millennials want to do things before time. So, for them, perfection is not something that they chase for, as long as the job is being done.

The conflict goes beyond this and extends to communication, work ethics and power over who will have the ultimate control over the rules.

For example, baby boomers are more process oriented, they rely on experience and believe in revisiting and replicating the past processes. Millennials are more into brainstorming new ideas. This leads to a push between trying new ideas or adopting systematized processes.

Leaders who know how their team members approach to solve problems can make a big difference. Because they can then understand what each team member seeks. This helps them to create structures that can move things when conflicts arise.

No matter which generation your employees belong to, everyone wants respect above anything else. For baby boomers respect stems from professionalism, for millennials it arises from listening to their ideas.

Finally, when handling generational conflicts, one thing rises above all. And that is the ability of the leader to keep everyone focused on his or her work. There may be a lot of things separating those between the ages of 60 and 20, but if the people on these two ends work together towards the same goal, they will have a common ground (their goal) to resolve those issues. And that’s what leaders should aim at.

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Sandeep Kashyap is the Founder of ProofHub — a leading project management and collaboration software. A passionate leader, Sandeep is always on the lookout for innovative ideas about filling the communication gap between groups, teams and companies. He is also a featured writer on LinkedIn and a contributing author at YourStory. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Also follow our company page @ProofHub to get the recent updates about our tool, published articles, motivational quotes & presentations.


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Originally published at LinkedIn.



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Sandeep Kashyap

Sandeep Kashyap


Internet Entrepreneur, CEO of SDP Labs and Founder of ProofHub